Rejection. The word itself even sounds unpleasant. However, every author, at one point or another, has experienced rejection. Yes, this includes New York Times Bestselling authors. The authors of "Chicken Soup for the Soul" were rejected by scores of publishers before one finally said "yes." That series of books has sold millions of copies.
Authors are rejected when they try to find an agent, when they try to get their book published, when they are trying to obtain book signing events, when they are trying to get positive book reviews and when they are trying to obtain media exposure. For an author, rejection lurks around every corner.
Prior to working in publishing, I worked as a broadcast journalist. I was an anchor, reporter and producer for a number of radio and television stations. This meant that I had the worst job security in the world. If a station's ratings were low, if the station was purchased by a competing company, if I asked for a raise, if the boss decided I was making too much money, I was fired. I have been fired on more than one occasion (several, actually), sometimes in spectacular fashion. At one radio station which had been sold to a competitor, the general manager called the staff into the conference room and informed everyone they no longer had jobs. I was fired from another station after two weeks on the job because the manager decided he didn't like my voice after all. At another station, I took the day off work because my wife needed emergency surgery and she nearly died on the operating table. The surgery took several hours, and when I went home for the night and checked my answering machine, I heard a message informing me I no longer had a job. Now THAT'S rejection!
Although rejection hurts at the time, it comes with the territory when you work in broadcasting, and it's even more true when you decide to become an author. Merely getting a book published and printed doesn't guarantee an author anything but the fact they have a book that has been published. It doesn't guarantee that every bookstore in the country will stock it (or that any bookstore will stock it), it doesn't guarantee Oprah will have you on her show to talk about your great book, and it doesn't guarantee that book reviewers will bother to read it, or if they do, that they will like it.
So how does an author cope with rejection? Here are a few hard lessons I learned over the course of a 20-year broadcasting career:
1. It isn't personal. If a publisher doesn't agree to publish your book, or if a bookstore doesn't agree to host you for a book signing event, it is strictly business. Your book may not fit the current needs of the publisher or the bookstore.
2. Don't dwell on the negative. Yes, rejection stinks, especially if you are rejected by someone or something you really look up to. Not everyone who leaves a review at Amazon.com is going to write a glowing review of your book. The popular bookstore in town may take a pass on carrying your book. Realize that no matter what you do, you'll have your critics. Concentrate on the people who DO appreciate what you do.
3 You can't please everybody. When an author is first assigned to me, I make a point of asking them who they think is the perfect audience for their book. "My book is for everybody" is an answer I hear a lot. No book is for everybody, just like no movie is for everybody. I can't stand romantic comedies, but my wife loves them. No matter what kind of book you write, some people will like it and some won't. Comedian Bill Cosby once said "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everybody." He was right.
4. Make a plan and stick to it. I can't tell you how many times I was told I would never make it in the broadcasting business. I didn't have the right education, I didn't have the right look, I didn't know the right people, etc. Still, I was determined. I worked my way from a little radio station in Mason City, Iowa to producing reports for syndicated radio programs heard nationwide. Sure, it took me 20 years, but I still did it. The lesson here is that it may take time for you to achieve your goals in your writing career. Things don't happen overnight, especially in the publishing industry. Patience and persistence are qualities every successful author has, and you will experience bumps along the way.
5. Grow a thick skin. Nobody likes rejection, but it doesn't have to defeat you, either. It has been said that God will never give you more than you can handle. There have been times I certainly felt like the opposite was true, but time puts everything in perspective. Now when I experience adversity, I consider "will this impact my life five years from now, or will nobody really care?" I haven't encountered too many obstacles that will still impact me five years into the future. I still take problems and rejection seriously, but I don't take them personally. It's just business, remember?
Keep working toward your goals, keep a positive attitude and don't listen to the naysayers. If they really had something worthwhile to say, they would have written a book about it, just like you.